You’ve all wondered what David’s five smooth stones represent (1 Sam 17:40). Now I bring you the definitive answer…
Not really, I just have some reflections on David and Goliath and there happen to be five of them…
But first, let’s remind ourselves of the story. (Read it here)
So here we are (verses 1-3) the uncircumcised Philistines facing off against the ranks of Israel.
There came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. (v4)
Over nine feet tall. Most of us would be eye-to-navel with him. The tallest man I know (6 foot 9) wouldn’t even be eye-to-nipple! Even his coat of armour (verse 5) was 55kg or 8½ stone. And he’s from Gath which tells you:
1) He’s probably Nephilim. (Look up Gath and Anakites – you do the requisite mathethatical calculations). In which case he’s literally super-human. Literally a super-hero – or super-villain more like. In the person of Goliath heaven and earth is united against the ranks of Israel. But secondly…
2) Gath means ‘wine-press’. And here we see Goliath crushing the LORD’s vineyard. Israel is the vine and Goliath is the vine crusher. Watch him crush them, vv10-11:
And the Philistine said, “I defy (reproach) the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
The word ‘dismayed’ means literally ‘shattered’ and Israel has been constantly told ‘Don’t be dismayed by the nations.’ (Deut 1:21; 31:8; Josh 1:9; 8:1; 10:25). Instead God would dismay (shatter) the nations – how? Hannah tells us at the beginning of 1 Samuel:
Those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His King and exalt the horn of His Anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:10)
Through the Messiah, the LORD would shatter all opposition. In 1 Samuel 2 we see world-wide realities – judgement to the ends of the earth. Hannah looks ahead to the victory of the LORD Jesus. But in chapter 16 we see little David anointed as king. And here in chapter 17 we see this little king picture for us the victory of the Anointed One.
We see him in verse 12, fresh from his father’s house, the house of bread – Bethlehem – bringing bread to his brothers. But David’s provision and sustenance would mean nothing without his victory.
Let’s consider his victory. From verses 38-40 we see him reject the armour of Saul – his victory would not be with worldly strength but in weakness – that the Name of the LORD be seen in all its power.
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have reproached. (v45)
With a single blow David kills the giant (v50) and then takes his head (v51 – cf Gen 3:15; Hab 3:13). In a second the Israelites are turned from shattered men to shattering victors. Now, in the certainty of their king’s victory (v52) they shout and advance, shattering the adversaries of the LORD and plundering their camp.
Now… What’s that got to do with preaching?
A good preacher is like a war correspondent on the front lines of this battle. You survey the scene – and it’s bad. An evil, super-human opponent. Fear and despondency in the ranks and you just can’t win. But then! You announce, from among you – the anointed king, your champion. He is small and looks so weak but, yowsers he is handsome! (v42; 1 Sam 16:12). What courage He has as He fights for us. What confidence He has in the Name of the LORD. And look people, look – even through His weakness He defeats the enemy – killing him with his own weapon.
And as the herald of victory you declare:
“We’ve won! Our champion has triumphed! Shout aloud! Praise your Champion! Rejoice in song! And advance into your week knowing that the enemy is decapitated – you have the victory in your Messiah. Charge into your week in the name of the Anointed King…. And then come back next week when you’ll be dismayed and terrified all over again.”
And each and every week you herald the bad news that is very bad and the good news that is beyond triumphant. And bit by bit the troops begin to really love their King and they begin to walk in the kind of freedom and victory that He’s already won for them. That’s good preaching.
Bad preaching is not like that. A bad preacher is like a battle-weary soldier briefing the troops and saying
“It’s tough out there people but, hey, if battle-weary soldiering has taught me anything it’s that we’ve got to be tougher. That David – he’s an example to us all – a model soldier. Let me give you some advice that I learned direct from David: When you use a slingshot, you have to get a firm base with the legs and then… it’s all in the wrist.
“Three points for you to take with you – after all this is a military briefing – you’re here for practical tips. Point 1: remember whose army you are. Don’t let the side down. Point 2: Remember the techniques I’ve taught you, and Point 3: if you’re struggling for motivation – do it for David! God bless, and ‘be careful out there.’”
Do it for David?? Do it for David?? David did it for you!! And He did it for you when you were shattered and terrified. Our congregations need gospel preaching.
Our congregations need to hear the victory of Christ proclaimed week after week after week. We don’t need more combat skills – we need more Christ. If you take your eyes off the champion your eyes either go on Goliath or on your paltry combat skills – either way you’ll end up dismayed, shattered, terrified.
I hear so many sermons that simply crush the vine. They do Goliath’s job for him.
When you preach, preach about our Champion. Tell them about His fight, His sacrifice, His victory. Make them shout, make them sing, make them see brave, beautiful, loving, strong Jesus once again.
And the weaker the troops, the more dismayed, the more disobedient, the more they look like deserting and making shipwreck – herald the good news. Christ has triumphed for the weakest and the worst of them.
Preach the Gospel friends.
Two sermons on 1 Samuel 17 – audio part one; audio part two
Some other relevant posts on preaching:
Preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God
What is “applied preaching”??
A long (20 000 word) paper on Karl Barth and preaching
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